Food Pharmacy

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Guide to Lectins

The general concept of being a Nutrient Hunter is that we eat an abundance and variety of vegetables and in our latest book Nutrient Hunter (coming out in english soon) you will not only find a vast array of vegetables but a lot about legumes as well. Beans, peas and lentils are good for both our health and the environment – they are rich in protein, vitamin B, fiber and iron and are a healthy, sustainable and climate-smart alternative to meat. But, because we get many questions about lectins, we felt it was time for a guide on how to prepare legumes to avoid them causing lectin poisoning.

Simply explained, beans, peas and lentils should not be served raw or semi-cooked since legumes that are not properly cooked contain lectins that can cause problems such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain. By soaking and boiling, however, the lectins are destroyed and become harmless. Our tip is therefore that you make it a habit to read the instructions on the packages extra carefully and not skimp on the soaking and cooking times suggested.

But, what the heck are lectins?

Lectins are a group of proteins found in all dried and fresh legumes, such as beans, lentils, peas, haricot verts and wax beans. Different legumes contain different amounts of lectins, for example red kidney beans contain a lot while mung beans, chickpeas and adzuki beans contain less. Even elderberries and mushrooms can contain lectins.

Why should I avoid consuming lectins?

Lectins can cause quite unpleasant symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain. Symptoms usually appear about 1-7 hours after ingestion and last for about 3-4 hours.

Okay, but how do I minimize the risk of consuming lectins then?

When it comes to dried beans and peas, soaking and boiling is the key. We usually do not encourage food waste but in the case of soaked legumes, always throw out the soaking water, as it should not be used in cooking (chickpeas water is often used in cooking and baking instead of egg white, but even though chickpeas contain relatively low levels of lectins, people who are sensitive to lectins can be affected).

When it comes to fresh peas and beans, they should also be cooked briefly before you eat them, In the case of lentils, they should always be fully cooked. Planning on sprouting beans? Sprouting reduces the content of lectins, just keep in mind that they should be soaked first and that the soaking water should be discarded.

Thanks for the tips! Do you have any good recipes with legumes?

Do we have recipe? Of course! How about, mung bean bread, a quick tikka masala with carrot and black beans, black bean patties with golden pumpkin mash or our oat crispbread with red lentils, pumpkin seeds and chia seeds!

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